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Palo residents worry proposed 3,500 acre solar farm will keep community from growing

Published: Jun. 9, 2021 at 6:47 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 7:06 PM CDT
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PALO, Iowa (KCRG) - Many people in Palo are concerned about a proposed solar farm coming to Linn County.

Anti-industrial solar signs can be seen in yards throughout the community. The proposal, which comes from NextEra Energy, has not yet been filed formally with Linn County, but the company is looking to install solar panels across 3,500 acres.

“The size of the project is so large that any future growth opportunities for the city of Palo could essentially be completely chocked off,” said Mayor Erik VanKerckhove.

Residents KCRG-TV9 spoke with echoed the Mayor’s concern and worried their property values could decline with the unknown of exactly where the solar panels will be installed.

”Considering we have a field to three different sides of us, that makes me worry,” Susan Salee explained.

A map filed by NextEra Energy with the Iowa Utilities Board in April shows where they’d like to install the solar panels. The area stretches to Toddville, near Shellsburg and near Center Point. It also covers the site that used the be the Duane Arnold nuclear plant in Palo.

City leaders in Palo are worried about the size of the proposal and how many communities it could impact.

”The general population thinks that this is, they’re converting the nuclear power plant into a solar field doesn’t that sound great? And that would sound great, but it’s so much bigger than that,” said Kendra Aarhus, Palo Planning and Zoning Board Member.

NextEra Energy will be opening an office in Palo next week. People will be able to stop by to ask questions and landowners can inquire about getting involved. Landowners participating in the project will get paid.

The company says this project will help the economy by providing hundreds of construction jobs and generating tax revenue that can be used for things like schools and roads.

”It’s a project that the residents can be proud of and we look forward to bringing jobs, economic growth, and clean homegrown solar energy to Linn County for years to come,” said Conlan Kennedy, Spokesperson for NextEra Energy Resources.

A meeting will be held at the Palo Community Center Thursday night at 6:00 P.M. People are invited to ask questions and learn more about this proposal. People can also join the meeting virtually over zoom.

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